After almost two years of teaching full time in my new neighborhood, I have experienced an increase in student interest and students on my waiting list. Until now, I was taking anyone and everyone who called for lessons, but I am now at a point where I can choose which students I will accept in my studio. So, I’ve taken a step back to re-evaluate what I excel at as a teacher, and what types of students would fit well with me in the studio.
I have started to develop a system of auditioning prospective students. Before I even begin the audition process, I typically speak to the prospective student over the phone. Information I gather and I questions I ask include:
- Full name
- Phone number
- Age/ grade for teenager; work schedule if working adult
- Why is the individual interested in voice lessons?
- What styles of music are they interested in performing?
- What is their musical background? Do they play piano? Have they taken previous voice lessons?
After getting more background information, I would decide if I did want to set up an audition lesson. I ask the prospective student to bring any type of prepared solo, church hymn, or a portion of a choral piece to sing. If I do not decide to audition the student, I either refer them to another voice teacher that would be a better fit, suggest piano lessons, or suggest involvement in a community choral group.
The audition lesson consists of several segments, designed to make the student comfortable and to allow me, the teacher, to identify strengths and weaknesses in their singing and musicianship.
- I begin with light conversation with the parent and student to help them feel at ease.
- I then listen to a portion of their prepared solo or hymn in order to assess the quality and strength of the voice, level of musicianship, and their signing confidence.
- At this point I ask the singer to sing the melody of “Amazing Grace” while I play the piano accompaniment. The sheet music is SATB, so I ask a female to sight read the alto line, and a male to read the tenor or bass line. This portion of the audition gives me a good idea of where they are with sight-reading and musicianship skills.
- Next, I vocalize the student with a four note arpeggio “I love to sing” for example, starting on middle C. This gives me information on their vocal strengths and weaknesses, as well as their current range.
- The final musical test is a tone-matching exercise. I play a series of 3 or 4 tonally related, then tonally unrelated pitches in both big and small intervals. The student is asked to repeat the pitches vocally. Students who sing all of the pitches, or stumbles upon one or two pitches, they have a very trainable ear and are most likely ready for voice lessons.
- Finally, I have a short interview at the end of the lesson with the student, and if applicable, their parent. I ask similar questions to the phone interview, trying to get a better reason for their personal goals in lessons, and their musical background.
By the end of the lesson, I have a good idea if this is a student I am interested in teaching. I notify the student if they are accepted, are not accepted, and if I think another teacher would be better suited to their needs, if they are added to my waiting list, or I may suggest a year of piano lessons to strengthen their musical skills. Before the accepted student leaves the audition lesson, I explain the protocol for entering before the lesson, the studio policies, and what to bring to the next lesson (digital recorder, sheet music, pencil, notebook). I want to ensure that the student and I are on the same page from the beginning.
I know many of you teach a variety of instruments. How do you handle an incoming student especially when you have limited spots in your studio and are a teacher in high demand? Do you use a more formal approach, or do you prefer to keep it casual? Or do you bypass the audition completely, and prefer to do a brief phone interview before starting lessons? Let us know about your personal experience, and you strategies for keeping an ever-growing list of students enrolled in your studio!